Today

I write to share my experiences. I write because it’s the only way I can synthesize things in my mind. I write because maybe, just maybe, my words can help someone or simply make them feel less alone.  When my nine-year-old daughter had a ruptured ovarian cyst, I sat up in the wee hours of the night reading a blog written by a mom who had had a similar experience with her daughter. I love having that me-too feeling when I read a post on Facebook about another mom sharpening 65 pencils or someone searching for a purple plastic folder with metal brads to fulfill the dreaded school supply list. I feel a little bit better when I see other moms posts about that mixed-up feeling of happiness and tears they have on the first day of school when the school bus pulls away. Reading about similar experiences gives me a feeling of camaraderie even if it’s over the invisible waves of the internet.

And I hope that’s what you get when you read my blog or my stories. Many times I err on the side of sharing too much. This summer my posts seem to have been far and few between, many of them seemingly more serious than the normal sharing of crazy kid stories. But sometimes I need to vent and put my thoughts out into this vast electronic world so I can get it off my shoulders and take that deep breath I so desperately need.

Today, on this Sunday afternoon, I find myself trying to feel human after a Mohs procedure that proved to take a greater toll than I had planned on. I have antibiotic drops to clear up the infection in my eyelid and oral antibiotics to assuage the fever that appeared yesterday. But my real problem, the one that doesn’t seem to have a magic panacea, is the way I feel about the all too big wound on my face. It traumatizes me. And I know from the look in the eyes of the people who have seen it, it surprises them too. I’m sad as I look at the photos Justin took one afternoon to try and find a suitable “author” photo. I’m sad because my forehead is front and center and scar free and I know it will be a long time before it looks like that again…if it ever will.

In the grand scheme of life, 25 stitches on your head really shouldn’t matter. Except that we live in a society that places too much value on external beauty. We cover up our blemishes with foundation. We try to diminish our wrinkles and cover our greys. Our magazines are photoshopped to show the ideal look of perfection. My imperfection is hidden under a maxi pad like bandage. And, honestly, it’s easier to handle when it’s hidden.

But it’s the scars, the imperfections, and the wounds in our souls that make us stronger and our stories more colorful. I have friends who have scars internal and external, hidden and not who have faced heroic battles. Their stories make me feel superficial and silly but mostly give me strength when I feel down. Because deep down I know this scar doesn’t make me anymore or less beautiful but when my reflection stares me down, I need my breath and my mind, and my words, to remind me it doesn’t matter.

I share my words today not looking for sympathy or empathy but as a reminder that our stories are important and can help others when shared. Several of you wrote to me the other day and said they were making a doctor’s appointment immediately because of my post and I felt like some good could be gleamed from the whole thing. I share my words with you today in case there’s some mom out there getting ready to have a similar procedure and I want her to know she’s not alone. Part of me is glad I’ve felt so sick because my home feels very safe. But I’m going to do it, I’m going to take my bandaged head out into the world for a little bit this afternoon. I’m going to remind myself that beauty is so much more than what you see at first glance. I’m going to open up my heart a little bit more and share all the love and kindness I feel in my life…and that will make me feel so much better.

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Cover up, Buttercup!

I’m sitting in the waiting room of the Skin Surgery Center waiting for the next two hours to see if the first incision/removal of my basal cell carcinoma removed all of the cancer.  The doctor marked me up and the scar will be bigger than I expected.  I was hoping for an eye lift but the fab doctor, who accommodated all of my nervous chatter,  pointed out it would only be on one side and that would be awkward…

E’s parting words to me were, “I hope they put part of your butt on your face, Mom! You can be buttface!” But I won’t be buttface because apparently I have young skin and the size, shape and placement of the cancer doesn’t work for a graft. So instead, I’ll be Frankenmommy! Have no fear, my fabulous hairdresser is going to gently cut some heavy bangs for me tomorrow so my vanity won’t suffer a huge blow.

But, why you ask am I sharing all this info with you? Well, writing relaxes me and I need to relax right now. Also, I want to remind you to stay out of the sun. I grew up in the ’70s and ’80s and lived minutes from the beach. We sat out in the sun even though my dad’s mom, the grandmother I never met, died of melanoma. I was a kid and it didn’t mean much to me. Was there baby oil involved? Once, I believe.  Stupid? Absolutely. And now I get to pay the price. But the most important message is to go get anything strange checked out. The spot above my eyebrow was red and didn’t look like much—kind of pimply. My dermatologist was pretty certain it was basal cell carcinoma from the start and biopsied it. Sure enough it was. And here I am.

I’m neurotic about my kids being in the sun. We spray and re-apply. I wear a hat now when I’m outside and 50+ SPF is my preference. I’ll get my golden glow from eating too many carrots, my green juices or the sunless tanning lotion I love instead.

***Update…I’m home now and feeling pretty lousy. I have 25 stitches in my head and my left eye is black and blue and swollen. I don’t want to share my picture…enough of you have seen it or me and judging from your reactions I should keep it to myself. The stitches come out next week and the healing will begin.

***Update #2…I’ve just seen the scar and suddenly every blemish I’ve ever had on my face pales in comparison…

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12 Things to do in IOP and Charleston

Loved our time in the lowcountry this week! We rented a house on Isle of Palms about three blocks from the beach. The house had a pool and a hot tub so we were pretty much guaranteed to have a blast without going anywhere but the area is filled with so many fabulous sights and restaurants that we ventured out quite a bit!

1. Rent a golf cart – If you are staying on IOP or Sullivan’s Island, golf carts are a great way to get to and from the beach. Plus, they are super fun!

2. Eat at Acme Lowcountry Kitchen. OH MY GOSH! It was amazing. If you want to make a reservation (and you should because it gets crowded) call before five. We reserved a table for ten on the patio but they ended up not being able to seat us there so we ate inside. To make up for it they gave us three free appetizers. We had clams, calamari and smoked gouda nachos. Holy Cow! I wanted to ask for a straw to drink the broth that the clams were in. For dinner, I had scallops with pimento grits. It was delish! I don’t know what Justin ate because he inhaled it but he moaned the whole time he ate it because he loved it so much. We also sampled desserts even though we ate more than we normally do in a day at that meal, and I am so glad we did. My fav was the chocolate peanut butter pie. It melted in my mouth and hopefully will melt off my hips just as fast. On top of all that, the service was impeccable. If you are in the area, go…at least once during your visit.

3. South Carolina Aquarium - Who doesn’t love an aquarium? This one is just the right size to entertain the kids and not bore the adults. It was Shark Week and my kids loved watching the sharks in the huge tank in the middle of the building.

4. Charleston City Market – We walked from the aquarium to the market. It’s a great place to find souvenirs or to bore your male teenagers.

5. Lowcountry Bistro - All I have to say is a crabcake sandwich on a fried green tomato and pimento cheese. Really? Yumm-o! I had the half sandwich and half of a sandwich. I needed to get some greens…that weren’t fried.

6. College of Charleston – Yeah, I have a child who is going to college in three years. I might go back to school and go to CofC. It’s gorg. And, hey, since I try to speak like a wannabe teenager I should fit right in…right? LOL!

7. Hominy Grill - At this point you’re probably wondering how I could even put on a bathing suit after all this food, rest assured I did. And I had no problem parading around IOP in it most of the time…or at least when we weren’t out eating. I had to have another fried green tomato sandwich here with a side of mashed sweet potatoes. The potatoes were like a pudding. The meal was divine. Justin had some garbage plate thing and he never even offered me a bite. Actually, I ‘m not even sure I saw his plate with any food on it because he devoured it once again. He wanted to taste the pudding because apparently every show on Food Network says it’s the best. I made him order it surreptitiously with dinner so the six kids wouldn’t ask for any. He did and it was worth every calorie. Once again, the staff was amazing. I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten in restaurants with such friendly waitstaffs.

8. DIY Ghost Tour – We tried to go on a ghost tour but apparently they fill up really fast. So, we visited two haunted sites. Poogan’s Porch (We’d eaten there before but honestly I don’t remember what the food was like.) We read the kids the ghost story that goes along with Poogan’s Porch and they pretended to listen. We also visited the Unitarian Church Graveyard. Apparently Edgar Allen Poe’s girlfriend, Annabel Lee, was buried there. Her father didn’t like old Edgar so he hid her grave somewhere in there…or so it goes. That was enough of a haunted tour for the six kids who lost interest pretty quickly when they realized they weren’t going to see a real live ghost.

9. Fort Moultrie – We did a speed tour of the Fort. It was $5 for four adults and kids were free. Worth all five hundred pennies. The views are great and there’s enough to do to stay for an hour or two or to speed through in less than thirty minutes (which is what we did). Sidenote, Edgar Allen Poe was stationed there for a year.

10. Home Team BBQ – Our first meal of the week and it really set the pace. I loved the atmosphere and the Allagash White beer I am now craving. The kids sat at a picnic table behind us and we sat at the bar…perfection! This little area of Sullivan’s Island is cute too. There are at least half a dozen restaurants oozing with atmosphere. We wanted to go to Poe’s Tavern but were worried that we wouldn’t fit in the van on the way home if we consumed any more food. Justin popped in and bought an uber cool T-shirt and spoke with the owner. He lived in Richmond and worked at Mosaic. It was neat to have the Poe/Richmond connection.

11. Jack’s Cosmic Dogs - My kids said I had to add this. Being a vegetarian(or at least a fake one), I was not interested in eating a hot dog so I had a chicken sandwich. It was fine but my kids say the homemade corn dogs were the best thing they had all week. I really don’t want to know if it was the batter that was homemade or if the hot dogs are homemade. I don’t really like to think about hot dogs at all and I certainly don’t want to think about how they’re made – EVER!

12. The BEACH! The beach at Isle of Palms is near perfection. The kids spent hours in the water. There weren’t any jellyfish or sharks (it was at the forefront of their minds after they stayed up late watching all the shark shows on Discovery). The sand was just right for walking or running-something we really needed to do to counteract all the food we were eating. And it wasn’t too crowded. IMG_2816

 

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Tim

One week ago today a dear friend had a stroke. A stroke…it still seems so completely unbelievable. He’s a dad, a husband(to one of my favorite people in the world), a son, a brother, an uncle, a godfather, oh…and a friend. People are drawn to Tim. He has the ability to talk to anyone wherever he goes. He has a magnetic personality that immediately draws you in. He’s funny—really funny— and an all around great guy. But people gravitate toward Tim not only because he’s the life of the party, they want to be near him because he’s kind and so generous. His heart is huge. He’d do anything for anyone. To be friends with Tim is to have a friend for life.

Right now, Tim needs his friends more than ever. He’s going to need our support in every way. Tim has made incredible progress this week…amazing progress. Check out the Caringbridge page Lisa has created to keep everyone updated. He’s headed to rehab in the next few days and I am certain he will work his tail off to get himself in tiptop shape. But the truth is life has changed and with those changes will come challenges.We will all continue to cheer him on and help Lisa and the boys in as many ways as possible. But I want to ask if you’d help by donating to this fund we’ve started—The Tim Horton Donation Account.  This account will help pay for the medical bills that will start arriving shortly. It will pay for the best medical supplies we all want our guy, Tim, to have. It will pay for any expenses Lisa incurs traveling to and from the hospital and rehab. It will pay for the things they need in the house for that day we will all wait with baited breath for, the day Tim gets to come home. And it will help pay for the future that somehow got turned upside down for them last week. So, we have this fund and I’d like to ask you from the bottom of my heart, if you’d donate any amount you can to it. There are four ways to donate money to help the Hortons.

  1. You can stop by any Wells Fargo location around the country to donate to the Tim Horton Donation Account.
  2. Your bank can transfer money directly into the account.
  3. Please feel free to stop by my house to drop any checks off. Checks can be made to the Tim Horton Donation Account. 
  4. Donations can also be made via Paypal. Please be aware it will give my name, Julie Farley, as the donation coordinator but the money goes right into Tim’s donation account.

Thank you. Thank you for considering a donation. Thank you for the prayers and thoughts I know you’ll send toward our friend and the whole Horton Family. Thank you for taking the time to read the words most of us never imagined uttering.

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The Farleys Did D.C.

Turns out my kids are amazing travelers and seem to have a thing for cities just like their mom. We drove up to D.C. on Tuesday for a twenty-six-hour trip and did as much as their tiny legs(and the parking meters) would let us. We started our trip with a visit to my dad’s gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery and then we went to some of his favorite haunts which felt really strange…really strange. But isn’t that what you need to do with your memories? Visit them and tease forgotten ones out of the deep folds of your brain? Because that’s what we did and it hurt but ultimately made me feel closer to him than I normally do. We walked the streets of Arlington and D.C. with a ghost by our side. Justin and I shared stories…great big stories filled with laughter and memories of times gone by. Our hours were filled with as much family lore and tales as actual history and tradition.

We devoured a very early dinner at Ray’s Hellburger and filled our stomach to tour the monuments. After realizing the streets in D.C. are not easy to navigate between 4 and 6:30, we visited the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, World War II Memorial, Vietnam Memorial and peeked at the White House. We did it all in forty-five minutes because of the parking meter(well, they aren’t meters anymore but those little things you pay at stopped at 4 and we couldn’t figure out what happened at 6:30 so we just walked really quickly.) We were walking so quickly that Eva slipped down a few steps at the Lincoln Memorial and at one point we had to let the ones with the longer legs go on ahead to save the car from whatever fate lay ahead of it.

From there we moved on over to Georgetown and went to my new fav store Lush. I wanted to buy some of their awesome face masks but they were sold out and you can’t order them online because they are fresh and need to stay refrigerated. Have no fear, I found something else to satisfy my need for beauty products. Then we checked out some more shops on our trek to Georgetown Cupcake but never even ended up going there because the line was insane. The kids got fro-yo instead and Justin and I took them down to the river, sat at a bar and had a beer and raw oysters. I’d prefer that to a cupcake a lot of days…a lot not all.

The kids and I dropped Justin off the next morning after we had breakfast at my dad’s old Starbucks and went to the zoo on one of the hottest days of the summer. I got a little lost going around DuPont Circle and felt like I was in a Chevy Chase movie but my most awesome fourteen-year-old co-pilot found the way using the GPS. We trekked up and down and all around the free zoo(after $22 for parking and $41.50 for three sandwiches for lunch). For me, the highlight took place in the first ten minutes when we saw the pandas hanging out munching on bamboo. I take that back…the highlight was spending the day with my kids without them arguing. We were on the same team the whole day…and we wanted to be on the same team. No one bickered. No one teased, poked or prodded. We just moved together as one not-so-little family and that was the happiest moment of my twenty-six-hours out of suburbia.

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They’re mine

They squabble. Sometimes squabble is too mild of a term to describe what they do. The glass door of the shower shakes as they run upstairs to list their grievances and place blame. I escape to the bathroom or hide in my closet to find a quiet moment and count the minutes until I get a little reprieve. And then they broker some sort of peace agreement and play soccer until a too tall brother accidentally kicks the soccer ball into an unprepared sister. Or they play Minecraft on separate devices until someone sets someone else’s house on fire or the batteries simultaneously run out on all of the kindles and they can only find one charger. During those moments, I feel the weight of being their mom and summer vacation.

But then we go to the river and hang out on the rocks and I sit back and watch. I watch them help each other move from rock to rock and navigate the little pools of water. I hear them giggle as they throw rocks into the water and find baby ducks looking for their next meal. I look up and see the smiles and the eyes glistening in the sun and during those moments I feel the magic in all that it means that they are mine. These little personalities belong to me and make my heart grow and explode with love.

Because there are four of them I’m not the mom I ever thought I would be. The oldest had strict rules when he was little. He couldn’t watch TV with pushing or fighting. He didn’t know the word gun until he walked into preschool at age four. His diet was monitored closely making sure every bite was filled with the best possible food. And now number three and number four know more bad words than I do. Ethan’s diet consists mostly of ice pops somedays. They’ve watched Hunger Games(I know…Bad Mother of the Year Award!). But because there are four of them, they also have someone in peace and in war. And they’re mine, even if my idea of what that means changes each day. Some days we’re thriving and other days we’re striving to just make it through. And I want to gather them up and guard all their freckles and hold them in my arms for the rest of our days because I’m the luckiest mom in the world to be entrusted with these fearless little souls.IMG_2673

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A New Booktrope Book!

One of the reasons I’m so excited about my new adventure with Booktrope is that I get to meet some great new authors. I wanted to share this new release with you…it looks fab!

Booktrope has released the fifth paranormal romance in Lilian Roberts’ Immortal Rapture Series. Arielle Immortal Journey is the first completely new book we’ve seen from the author since 2013. The novel continues the love affair between part-time telepath Arielle Lloyd and her immortal fiancé Sebastian Gaulle; but, this volume includes an exciting time travel element to shake things up.

 

Arielle Immortal Journey

 

An invitation to magic…
As the love story between engineering student Arielle Lloyd and her Immortal fiancé, the striking Sebastian Gaulle, continues, Arielle is invited to attend a meeting of the secret Veneti Society. She readily accepts as she must learn to use her powerful amulet and mystical book of spells to protect herself from constant danger.

Dangerous mortals…
Sebastian’s company is about to introduce advanced security systems to protect their global operations, but the head of Russian intelligence is determined to infiltrate the company and use it to his own ends. The Russians failed once, but they’ve vowed to stop at nothing this time, even if it means the destruction of all that Sebastian loves.

A journey to the past…
As a gift from her Immortal friend Eva, Arielle is whisked back in time to the 18th century to a glittering ball in Calais. There, she meets Sebastian as a mortal man, before he was given immortality. Although he does not recognize her, their souls connect instantly. But a jealous Immortal wants to possess Arielle as his own and vows to hunt her through eternity — and he’s not the only one. With this new evil threatening her, Arielle’s ancient amulet and her powerful friends may not be enough to keep her safe.

 

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Arielle Immortal Journay Cover

 

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Picked

Last week was a big week. I achieved things I didn’t know were possible. A fabulous publishing company, Booktrope, offered me a book deal. And it felt weird. A wise friend asked me why it felt so weird. Was it achieving my lifelong goal or was it the fact that I was picked that felt so odd? And I’ve thought about it for the last few days…over and over and my answer surprised me. It’s the fact that I was picked. The fact that someone picked me before other people.

Why is that weird you ask? Because this forty-two-year-old purveyor of Bar Farley, preschool teacher, author and mother to four sometimes well-adjusted children is still the ten-year-old who was picked last for kickball at recess. I’m still the one who got out first when we played dodgeball in the days when dodgeball was an official sport in PE class. I’m the one who volleyed between groups of kids and never really fit in. And I’m learning now, thirty-two years later, that it’s hard to change the way you see yourself.

I’ve worked hard. I work hard every day trying to balance work and kids. My lines get all blurry as I sneak in a few minutes on the computer and a quick trip to play mini-golf. But I do it because I want to and most of me can’t imagine any other way. But it’s still hard to think that I deserve it and I’m not that little girl with the pixie cut blushing in the last row.

So I need to look up at the sky and say thank you to this gorgeous universe that sometimes grants us our deepest desires. And I have to look in the mirror and shake my head and realize I’m that forty-two-year-old who sometimes feels the insecurities deep into her toes. But I’m also this girl who is filled with gratitude for the opportunities I have been served. All of the sudden, I’m the mom who has a great lesson to share with her kids…because now I can tell them with great certainty they will get picked…when the time is right.

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Summertime Happy

It’s easy to get lost when the calendar starts to clear and the lunches no longer need to be packed. Instead, days are filled with I want-to and I should-be and lazy moments of deciding exactly what to do. And my happy gets lost in the pile of wet beach towels and muddy flip-flops. You know me well enough by now to know I over-analyze every situation and event and I’m not good at pretending a moment is happy when it isn’t. I try to live this one crazy life with a sense of authenticity. And that’s a gift I hope to give to my kids…it’s okay to feel the full realm of emotions. But within that realm it is always possible to find the happy.

I’ve been looking for a summer project other than making sure book three is published and completing the other two books mostly on paper and partially in my head. I’ve contemplated reading a certain number of books before school starts, studying French poetry, baking a new macaron recipe every week or training for a triathlon. But I decided on our five hundred mile drive  this weekend, my goal will be simpler. I’m going to find the happy in my days and tiny moments. Because as I’ve said before, it’s not the big things—the books being published, the games being won or the gorgeous vacations—that make our lives happy. It’s the glimpse of the camellia blooming on the deck, the smile of a freckle-faced little girl pretending to be happy at her brother’s baseball game, the pitch that turns into a strike you didn’t know he could throw, the cover of the Parisian journal a dear friend gave you and handing back the rest of the bag of your favorite Cool Ranch Doritos to a toothless seven-year-old.

Are you ready to fast forward through my obsession with moments? Sorry…you can’t because I think it’s a constant battle to remember it’s not the big things in life that matter. Especially in the zip code I live in where sometimes the motto seems to be “Go big or go home.” And it is easy to think your happy place is in someone else’s backyard.  So my mission, my project if you will, this summer is to find the happy. The happy that exists if there’s sand between my toes or sweat dripping down my cheeks on the baseball field. The happy that can be elusive or as obvious as the Empire State Building. Will you join me and share your happy moments with me?empire

 

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A picture is worth a thousand missing words

I feel so connected to people. I see their snaps on Facebook and Instagram. The smiling faces of momentous occasions. The pictures of a crowning achievement—a graduation, baby born, race run or a cake baked. Brave souls show the messes. The kids with mismatched clothes throwing a temper tantrum in Target. Piles of laundry unfolded and not sorted. Dinner burned or scorned and replaced with a dreaded Happy Meal. I meet people in Target and they know things about me and in turn, I know things about them. And we assume we know so much more because we’re privy to this little portrait on social media.

But those pictures, those status updates, they’re a glimpse into a moment. And you know how I love moments. Moments carry us from minutes to hours, from days to years.. And sometimes one little moment is worth a thousand missing words. The picture of the perfectly iced cake leaves out the tears that fell into the frosting or the reason all she could do was bake a cake to lose herself in a world of sugar. The medal around the neck earned while escaping the demons he was running from to begin with. There’s a lot behind the closed doors of our lives that eludes the 140 characters in a tweet. The smiling faces we meet at the grocery store carry stories—stories of pain and equally of happiness.

Why on this day—this last day of school, this Friday the 13th and the day of a full honey moon—am I thinking of all of this? Because I’m thinking about how important it is to be kind. To share a smile with a room filled with people you know well and others you know well virtually. Because these lives we intersect with are  filled with missed chances, broken hearts, twinkling eyes, loves lost and found, things that can barely standing the test of time, much happiness and a tiny bit of despair, first world problems and things that are heavy and hard in every world. And when you smile know that you might not always really know exactly where the other person is on this great continuum of this thing we call life.

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